Here’s what she said:
“You know, everyone’s a little bit gay,” she told the crowd. “It’s the truth. Everyone’s gay, all it takes is one cocktail. And if that doesn’t work, sprinkle something in their drink. That’s what I always do.”
Publications like The Guardian are giving her tremendous benefit of the doubt, proactively providing her a defense by calling it a “joke.” I’m not willing to extend that benefit without more.
What she said, what she literally said, is that people should use alcohol to get people to have sex with them, who otherwise would not do so — and that if they doesn’t work, they should drug the drinks. And she said she does that herself. She didn’t say she did it once. She said that’s what she “always” does.
I will not assume this is a joke. Serial rapists target people they know; they overwhelmingly use intoxication instead of overt force. They do this because it works, and by “works”, I mean people will supply explanations and defenses.
And the popular culture has already started supplying explanations and defenses. That it was a “joke.” That she didn’t mean it literally. That she is just courting controversy. Maybe all that’s true. Or maybe she actually does exactly what she says she does, and the people explaining and excusing her comments are doing exactly what she counts on.
We have not heard any Miley Cyrus victims come forward; at least I have not. But … would they? Why would they? Reporting to police even under the best of circumstances is an uncertain proposition. Look at it this way; what is the track record of rape allegations, by adult complainants, against celebrities? Dismal. How about against white celebrities? Well, as far as I can tell, in the US, the batting average of sex offense convictions for assaults on adults by white celebrities is zero, ever. No convictions.
Not one. (I’m being specific here. There are a handful of convictions for sexual assaults of children, like Roman Polansky. There are a handful of convictions against black celebrities, including Mike Tyson and former NY Giants standout Dave Meggett. No white people. Marv Albert is the closest, I think, but he pleaded mid-trial to misdemeanor assault with no sexual component and did not have to register as a sex offender.) Think about it. Every once in a while there is an allegation, but the ones by adults against white famous people always end up a dead end for the prosecution. Always.
The elephant in the room is that Miley is a woman, and we’ve constructed rape as a thing that only men do, and that only happens to women. That’s not the reality.
I don’t mean to ignore rapes that happen to men here — they are more common than many people suppose, and that gets too little attention. In my view, we also have not talked enough about the dynamics of age. How often rape happens to men is highly sensitive to definition (penetrated versus forced to penetrate) and is very differently distributed by age for men than for women; there is very little discussion of any of this. See generally this paper, which has gotten some attention lately, but we’re only at the start of that conversation. You’re not really anti-rape unless you’re against all rape. There are no good rapes.
Rape of men is not necessarily what Miley Cyrus alleged. She prefaced her confession (what? People are calling it a “joke,” based on assumption alone, simply assuming that it isn’t literal, so I’m going to go ahead and treat it as literal and call it a confession) with the remark, “everyone is a little bit gay.” So she’s talking at least in part about same sex rapes. When she says, “that’s what I always do,” she may be saying that she drugs women to incapacitate them so she can rape them. And that doesn’t particularly make it better or worse. Whether she means that she rapes men, or women, or both, or people who don’t fit on the binary, their gender doesn’t excuse drugging them and raping them.
It seems strange that someone committing a crime would essentially brag that it’s a kind of crime they commit. But Roman Polansky bragged about raping underage girls, and Woody Allen cracked jokes about orgies with children. In fact, rapists tend to assume that everyone sees the world the way they do and try to normalize their conduct. As the inimitable Kate Harding said about misogynist men joking about rape and abuse and getting men to joke along:
you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women–to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.
And that guy? Thought you were on his side.
Rapists want to get all of us to nod along and giggle. Oh you! Courting controversy again! Making twisted jokes again!
Miley just said she rapes people. If we say it’s a joke in poor taste, we’re really just nodding along with it. What I want is a criminal investigation, but I won’t get that. At least I’d like us not to all treat it as a joke. True or made up, it’s a statement of criminal activity.
People who think I need a sense of humor need to get a sense of mission.
One thing that comes up over and over in discussing rape and how to stop it is the role of the criminal justice system. Advocates for survivors are adamant that survivors don’t have to report and don’t have to use the system. Many other people, for various reasons, think that survivors have an obligation to go to the police and prosecute. Some of these people are well-intentioned, and others really just want to say that any survivor who does not report should be ignored. I’ve written at the greatest length about this specifically with reference to kinky communities, where the “cops or STFU” brigade is not well-intentioned, but rather mostly composed of people who know full well that successful prosecution is almost impossible, that contact with the police will be affirmatively awful for the survivor, and just want a rallying cry to shout down all survivors.
I won’t repeat a general explanation of why the criminal justice system is broken here. For a lot of people in a lot of social positions, contact with the cops is not likely to go well. That’s just the reality we have to live with, and anyone who doesn’t see that is neck-deep in their own privilege. That explains why, for example, people of color, or sex workers, or trans people might decide the cops are more likely to be a danger to them than to help them, and that’s not specific to rape. But there is another reason even the most privileged folks may not want to go to the police about a rape. When the rape doesn’t fit the stranger-rape or overt-force storylines that make for the least difficult prosecutions (and sometimes even when it does), there is reason to believe that there may be no real investigation at all. It’s a journalistic convention to start with anecdotes, to humanize the story. These are systemic problems, and I’d prefer to start with how many rape complaints languish without real investigation, how many cases are dropped without an interrogation of a certain number of witnesses and whatnot. But that data is spotty or nonexistent; and people being people, it is necessary to start with a terrible story to humanize the problem. So I’ll do this in the usual way.
[Content note for an ugly story about a woman who was sexually assaulted, then stonewalled.]
Hannah at Howard and the D.C. Police
Hannah (the name Amanda Hess used in her excellent reporting back when she was with the Washington Citypaper) was at a party at Howard — somewhere in the house, and her friends didn’t know where. Her friends, her wingwomen, were looking for her, worried. A big guy who said he had been paid to keep people from the second floor physically prevented them from going upstairs to look for her; then he made a show of looking himself, but all the bedroom doors were locked. He was sweating. Hannah’s friends thought he looked nervous, like he knew something was wrong. The women yelled and made noise, ignoring the bodyguard’s and the owner’s orders that they leave, and eventually Hannah emerged from a bedroom: intoxicated, obviously out of it, barely able to negotiate the stairs. Her friends had been with her much of the night, and she hadn’t had enough alcohol to be that drunk. Something was wrong. As they left, they got half-way down the block before Hannah told them enough for them to figure out that she had been raped. Then she threw up. The women stormed back to the address of the house party, demanding to know who had taken Hannah into the bedroom. The men inside gave a fake name, then slammed the door. Hannah did what the “cops or STFU” crowd insist on. She went to the “proper authorities.” Hannah’s friends took her, still throwing up, to Howard University Hospital. Her friend filled out the intake form, “raped, possibly drugged.” Then, Hess writes: Read more…
I feel sorry for Jonathan Swift. The term “satire” and specifically Swift’s “modest proposal” about eating Irish children gets pressed into service to excuse and defend more offensive nonsense than Swift could have ever predicted. But the art of satire, as Swift employed it, isn’t dead, nor even entirely lost even after being used as the dumping ground for all that sloppy rubbish.*
A Denver-area kinkster and consent activist, Coco Jones (not the radio personality) has graced us with “I’m Taking Responsibility For Getting Raped.” If you’re writing a manual on how to satirize offensive, oppressive bullshit the Swiftian way, by treating it entirely seriously within the four corners of the text and letting it hang itself, you would do well to use this as your example:
I owe everyone an apology. I never expected to write this, I was stuck in a different mindset for a long time. But I think it’s time I accept something and admit where I have gone wrong. I have been pushing away, countering, debating, and made myself an all out controversial figure in the community. And what for? This whole time I just haven’t been listening. I’ve been deflecting and refusing to take ownership for something.
It’s time for me to step up and accept what so many have been saying. I am finally going to take personal responsibility for getting raped. Yep, you heard me. No more of this, ‘stop victim blaming’. I have gotten the message loud and clear. You are right. I did this. You finally broke through to me.
So, this is how I got myself raped and how I will be at fault for a future rape, or perhaps a mere consent violation, should it occur.
* * * Read more…
I’ll cut to the chase: a friend and activist is collecting stories and aggregating information about people who have left BDSM or kink communities and their reasons. I think this is important, and I want to encourage people to participate. There is a survey form here. There is a FAQ post about it here, and a follow-up here. The blogger, Motley Mayhem, has put the project ahead of the personality and I’ll respect that, except to say that I know and believe in Motley from consent culture work on Fetlife and I am really glad Motley is doing this.
The project has grown organically from a call to Motley’s friends to share stories, into a much bigger effort to capture the frequency and commonalities of these narratives. I don’t have access to any raw data, but I can tell you from the stories I’ve seen and heard over the years that I expect the real news to be the frequency and similarity of certain patterns. Regular readers will know what I think; what’s more important is to have thousands of accounts to back up the ways in which kinky communities drive off exactly the people who seek them out; the ways they act as power centers for the established members of the community and not as resources to guide or advocate for all the people who are or should be their constituents.
In the last two or three years, consent activism has exploded within kinky communities. A lot of people can share credit for a revolution in progress, because there is a revolution in progress, or, as I said in my biggest series of posts on this topic, there’s a war on. This survey is the forging of a powerful weapon in that war, a weapon made of truth. Please help. If you have a story to tell, please tell what you can, and if you don’t, please signal boost this so it finds the people who do.
Time flies when there’s too much to do. This blog launched when the book, Yes Means Yes: Visions Of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, hit the shelves in November 2008. The book went on to critical raves and a solid position in college syllabi, while its editors, Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, went on to other things — Jessica left her baby, Feministing, and ended up with a regular gig at The Nation, while Jaclyn wrote the follow-up workbook What You Really Really Want (I wrote the online supplement, and while I’m clearly biased, I think it’s a terrific book and it almost literally offers some useful tools for everyone old enough to read it). She writes for various outlets, does media appearances, runs WAM! and generally keeps a schedule that can make you tired just looking at it.
This was originally a group blog, and in the first year a majority of the contributors that said they would write for the blog submitted at least one post, but many only one or two. Some of those posts were terrific; Stacy May Fowles’s and Lee Jacobs-Riggs’s work particularly resonated with me. Before long, only a handful of us were writing anything for the blog, and then it was just me and Jaclyn, and a lot more me than Jaclyn, and for a long time now this has effectively been a solo blog. I never intended it that way, but that’s what happened.
When I started, I didn’t realize I had so much to say.
After three hundred posts of mine, and dozens of other folks’ from the early years, there is a heck of a back catalog. This is an entirely partial and biased list.
Rape and Rape Culture:
BDSM and Kink Community Issues:
Stuff I loved that nobody read:
Sometimes I think that some time I’ll be done, and then I remember what Jaclyn taught me: it is not yours to complete the work, neither is it yours to desist from it. So maybe I’ll still be here in another five. Thing will be better then. Not completely, but some.
I never know what to say. I have no analysis to bring to Trans Day of Remembrance. What strikes me every year is that trans folks need a day on the calendar to remember their dead.
238 this year, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring report.
In the wake of George Zimmerman’s arrest for aggravated assault, I wanted to revisit an aspect of Predator Theory that often goes overlooked: that the undetected rapists that Lisak’s research identified are non-specialist offenders.
Back in Meet The Predators, the most viewed post in this blog’s now five-year history, I wrote:
Lisak & Miller also answered their other question: are rapists responsible for more violence generally? Yes. The surveys covered other violent acts, such as slapping or choking an intimate partner, physically or sexually abusing a child, and sexual assaults other than attempted or completed rapes. In the realm of being partner- and child-beating monsters, the repeat rapists really stood out. These 76 men, just 4% of the sample, were responsible for 28% of the reported violence. The whole sample of almost 1900 men reported just under 4000 violent acts, but this 4% of recidivist rapists results in over 1000 of those violent acts.
If we could eliminate the men who rape again and again and again, a quarter of the violence against women and children would disappear. That’s the public policy implication.
I don’t know if there is a more specific look at this elsewhere, but Lisak found a correlation between rape of adults and sexual abuse of children, and between rape of adults and intimate partner violence. On the whole, one would anticipate that this would mean that there is a correlation between sexual abuse of children and intimate partner violence. That struck me because of what we’re learned over time about George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin but was acquitted:
He is under arrest for pointing a shotgun in his girlfriend’s face.
His girlfriend now alleges that he choked her in the past, and that he previously threatened to kill himself if she left him (a common abuser tactic of emotional manipulation).
This is the girlfriend he got together with after his wife filed for divorce. He allegedly punched his ex-wife’s father, threatened them with a handgun, and shattered her iPad to prevent video of his violent acts from being used against him.
He precipitated the confrontation with Martin, an unarmed teen who went to the store for snacks. It is undisputed that he shot and killed Martin. (Even some jurors have admitted that this acquittal was a travesty.)
So we might expect there to be a higher likelihood that he also sexually assaulted a child.
That’s exactly what one cousin alleges. The audio was released last summer, and you can hear her in her own words here, describing a pattern of abuse that lasted ten years and started when she was just six: “he would reach under the blanket and try to do things, and I would try to push him off, but he was bigger and stronger and older, and it was in front of everybody, and I don’t know how I didn’t say anything, but I just didn’t know any better …”
Folks make excuses for these people, until they don’t. After Trayvon Martin, there was too much attention on Zimmerman to take advantage of the cover he got earlier in life. But how many other people are out there, molesting relatives, abusing partners, doing damage to the world around them, while people try hard not to see a pattern?